EDITORIAL: Consequences of serving in Iraq

By Kaitlin Barr
March 27, 2008

Recently, 23-year-old male Courtney Lockhart was charged with murdering Auburn University freshman Lauren Burk. He is being charged with capital murder during a kidnapping, capital murder during an attempted rape and capital murder during a robbery. Eighteen-year-old Burk was found shot on a Tuesday night a few miles from campus.

In an interview with a television station, Lockhart’s mother apologized for her son’s actions, sending her heart out to the Burk family. Very nice, right?

After that comment, she went on to say that her son has not been the same since serving in the Iraq war. That comment alone opened up a topic that not many prefer to talk about.

When soldiers go to Iraq, they experience things that no one else would be able to identity with. The sights, the sounds, the smells, could haunt them forever. When they come back, they are offered a couple sessions of counseling, but not many take it. Do they think they would seem weak if they did have counseling?

In a report by WRBL, a local station in Columbus, Ga., stated that Lockhart spent three years in the Army but was dishonorably discharged for punching a sergeant. At desperate times like these after being in a war with Iraq for over five years, it must take something big to be discharged from the Army.

That said, was Lockhart violent before he even stepped foot into the Army, or did he change once he started training?

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, a former neighbor of Lockhart’s said that he was a troublemaker and always picked on younger boys – yet another said he seemed like a good kid. It just shows that you may not know your neighbors as well as you thought.

Lockhart is also being linked to other robberies, all performed after he came back from Iraq. If you feel something wrong with you, maybe you feel more violent, or think that you’re above the law, why wouldn’t you try to seek help?

This is going to be an obstacle for the next President to overcome. He or she will need to find a way to have every soldier that comes home from Iraq to go through some type of therapy, as well as find psychiatrists around the country who would offer their services for war veterans.

In an article by CBS news, there is ongoing research that says that from the start of the Iraq war on March 19, 2003 until the end of 2005, at least 283 veterans took their own lives. According to the Defense Manpower Data Center, a total of 147 troops have killed themselves in Iraq and Afghanistan since the war began. These are numbers that most people would not know, and even more would find overwhelmingly shocking.

According to the Veterans Affairs Department, over 400 veterans are homeless all over the United States. Not only are soldiers getting killed, killing themselves, and killing others, but they’re also found homeless after serving our country.

Giving up their lives for a short period of time for the United States of America is a big deal and an extraordinary accomplishment. Having such awful outcomes when they come home is not something that should be happening. The next president may have a lot to do with the economy, health care and immigration when they come into office, but the treatment of the Iraq war veterans should be moved higher to the top of their list.

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Kaitlin Barr

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